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Lee Health provides coronavirus update

By Staff | Mar 9, 2020

Lee Health has reported that a patient in their care, who was in their 70s, died on March 5 from the coronavirus.

The health care organization held a press conference on March 7 in which it was stated that two elderly patients arrived at the Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers on March 4 around noon. They were admitted to the intensive care unit. One of the patients remains isolated and was being treated as of March 7.

According to Lee Health president and CEO Larry Antonucci, both patients exhibited “severe respiratory distress” upon their arrival to Gulf Coast Medical Center and had “underlying health conditions.”

The death was reported to the state the evening of March 6.

Antonucci said those hospital workers who came in contact with the patients and treated them are being evaluated and have been isolated.

“No Lee Health employees have shown signs of an infection,” Antonucci said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statement on March 7 in which he announced that he has directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to activate to Level II to coordinate the state’s response to COVID-19 and provide critical support to the Florida Department of Health and county health departments.

The governor’s directive follows the March 6 announcement from the Florida Department of Health that two individuals have died and two new presumptive positive cases were confirmed in Broward County. Additionally, DOH announced on March 7 a new presumptive positive case in Lee County. The individual is isolated and being appropriately cared for. For the total case count, visit FloridaHealth.gov/COVID-19.

“I have directed the Division of Emergency Management to activate to Level II to ensure our state has all the necessary resources engaged as we respond to COVID-19,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement released on March 7. “It is critical that we proactively coordinate all state resources to mitigate the threat and contain COVID-19. I urge all Floridians to take necessary precautions and follow hygiene guidelines issued by the Surgeon General and Florida Department of Health.”

On March 1, DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-51, which directed Surgeon General Rivkees to declare a public health emergency to better equip Florida with the resources needed to handle the public health threat. The Governor has requested $25 million from the Florida Legislature to be appropriated in this current year for the Florida Department of Health to be used immediately to assist with the COVID-19 response.

The Florida Department of Health is working closely with the patients, potential close contacts of each case and health care providers to isolate and monitor persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and implement testing of anyone who may develop COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough or shortness of breath.

COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when an individual coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure. Most people recover from the COVID-19 without needing special treatment. The elderly and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and any other destination under CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their health care provider and local county health department and mention their recent travel or close contact.

Visit the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage at www.FloridaHealth.gov/COVID-19. This remains the best and most up-to-date resource for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121 or emailing COVID-19@flhealth.gov. The Call Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.